Category Archives: Articles 2021

Loralee Hyde: Memories of Bernice Kelly

Bernice’s close connections with Johnsonville dancers

Bernice Kelly, President of the RSCDS Wellington Region from 2005-2010, died on 6 June 2021 at the age of 87 years.

I was Editor of Wellington Region’s quarterly newsletter Harbour City Happenings from 2008-2014. During the cross-over period in our roles, I got to know Bernice as we worked together on the newsletter. I remember she did not use a computer, so she typed her column for each issue, which arrived punctually in the post for me to transcribe and place into the newsletter layout!

Following her election as President at the Region AGM in November 2005, Bernice mentioned in her first President’s column in the February 2006 Harbour City Happenings she had danced for 30-plus years in Wellington and had been on the Region Committee several times.

Bernice developed many friendships over her years of dancing and through her regular attendance as President at Region events such as Hogmanays and New Dancers’ Celebrations.

Members of Johnsonville Club had a close association with Bernice during her time as President, either through helping to organise Region events or dancing at them.

As a photographer, the photos I took at a number of these events provide a wonderful visual history of the people Bernice was involved with in Scottish Country Dancing in Wellington over the years and a snapshot of the fun and friendship this activity generates.

2006 Wellington Region Hogmanay

At the 2006 Wellington Region Hogmanay, organised by John Gregory and his committee in the Onslow College Hall, Selwyn Ng (Johnsonville member from 2006-2009) was First Foot during the ceremony to welcome in the New Year. This was his and Joanne Ang‘s (Johnsonville Treasurer 2009) first experience of Hogmanay.

After Selwyn, carrying a lump of coal (for warmth), black bun (for sustenance) and whisky (water of life), was piped into the hall by Ross Edwards, Bernice as President raised a toast to the RSCDS Wellington Region, as is the custom.

2006: First Foot Selwyn Ng, Margaret Bailey, President Bernice Kelly and Piper Ross Edwards

See more photos of the 2006 Hogmanay

2008 Wellington Region Hogmanay

Also held at Onslow College, the 2008 Wellington Region Hogmanay was organised by Bob Monks and his committee. Johnsonville tutor Rod Downey MC’ed the evening and Selwyn was again First Foot.

2008: First Foot Selwyn Ng, Piper Ross Edwards and President Bernice Kelly

Read more about the 2008 Hogmanay celebration

2010 Good Neighbours (Guid Nychburris) Festival

Diane Bradshaw and the Upper Hutt Club organised the 2010 Wellington Region event, the Good Neighbours (Guid Nychburris) Festival, at Knox Church Hall in Lower Hutt. Six local teachers were invited to teach dances they had devised—Rod Downey and Jeanette Watson from Johnsonville, Iain Boyd, Romaine Butterfield, Catherine Edwards and Ian Simmonds.

Rod taught Isla’s Fancy, written for Eric Norris on his 90th birthday in 2001. Rod chose this dance as 2010 was the year both Eric and Isla (who were Life Members of Johnsonville Club) died, aged 98 and 97 respectively.

Inspired by the Good Neighbours Festival in Dumfries in Scotland which appoints a ‘Queen of the South’, the Festival organisers selected a ‘Queen of Wellington’ by drawing a name out of a sparkling top hat. Bernice as Region President, presented Dorothy Warring from Island Bay Club (now Capital City) with a royal blue sash and tiara, fit for the occasion.

2010: MC Diane Bradshaw (left) and President Bernice Kelly (right) presenting Festival Queen Dorothy Warring to the assembled dancers who entered into the spirit of the evening by bowing or curtseying as she passed

Find out more about the fun of this unique Region Event in 2010

2010 Wellington Region Hogmanay

After five years as Region President, Bernice stood down at the AGM in 2010. She said In Harbour City Happenings, “I wish to thank the dancers in the Wellington Region for their help during that time to organise the Region’s activities: classes, the New Dancers’ Celebration, the Region Event, Hogmanay Dance and fundraising events. The welcome, hospitality and friendship extended to me by all Clubs has been much appreciated. I look forward to seeing you all at dances during 2011, albeit from the bottom of the set!”

Just one month later, Bernice acted as President at the 2010 Wellington Region Hogmanay in the absence of then Region President Elaine Laidlaw. Held at the Newlands Centennial Hall, this celebration was organised by Rod and Kristin Downey, Prisilla Conroy, Bob Monks, Catherine MacAulay and Jean Denne (all Johnsonville members at the time) with help from John Markham, John Gregory and Bernice herself.

2010: Acting President Bernice Kelly, Piper Ross Edwards, MC Rod Downey and First Foot Chris Totton

See more photos of the 2010 Hogmanay

2013 New Dancers’ Celebration

In the following years, Bernice continued to attend Region events as a dancer.

The 2013 New Dancers’ Celebration was organised by Johnsonville Club at the Newlands Centennial Hall with tutor Rod Downey as MC.

Former member Pat Reesby was Club Secretary in those days and produced the Johnsonville Club newsletter. On 23 October 2013, Pat wrote:

“What a wonderful time we had at the New Dancers’ Celebration, with lots of dancers (new and ‘old’) from other clubs. Twelve sets! And special thanks to Debbie and friends who organised the bunting. It was much admired…”

The hall was crowded with dancers including a great contingent of new members from Johnsonville enjoying their first formal dance. I was fortunate Bernice was in the top set for one dance so I was able to get some great photos of her dancing at the age of 79—Scottish Country Dancing is truly for all ages!

2013: Bernice dancing hands across in the top set

See more photos of the 2013 New Dancers’ Celebration

2016 Wellington Region Hogmanay

I took my final photo of Bernice celebrating with the Wellington Scottish Country Dancing family at the 2016 Wellington Region Hogmanay organised by John Gregory and team at the Crofton Downs School Hall. She spent much of the evening catching up with old acquaintances including those of us from Johnsonville.

2016: Bernice welcoming First Foot Selwyn Ng and Piper Doug Sinclair

We remember Bernice for her enjoyment of Scottish Country Dancing and her connections with fellow dancers as well as for her dedication to her role during her five years as Wellington Region President.

A favourite memory of mine is Bernice dancing in bright blue or red shoes—take a closer look at some of the photos above!

Loralee Hyde
16 June 2021

Aileen Logie: Rabbie Burns – Scotland’s National Bard

Many Johnsonville dancers were at the club’s Bowling Club Ceilidh on 30 January where the theme was Burns. Part of this was the Address to a Haggis in Scots – probably largely unintelligible to many! If you’re wondering what all that was about, read on.

Aileen giving a fine rendition of the Address to the Haggis at the club’s summer ceilidh. Photo: Kristin Downey

Burns night is celebrated in Scotland on the 25 January – Robert Burns’ birthday. He lived from 1759 to 1796, dying young at 37 years, but packed a lot into his short life. January is cold and dark in Scotland, so this is a winter feast with warming fires, whisky and poetry/singing/dancing involved. It’s very popular and second only to Hogmanay.

Burns was a man of the people, not rich, good looking and utterly charming to the ladies (to whom he comes across as irresistible). He believed all people are born equal, rebelling against the established (unequal) religious and moral views of the time.

The New Atholl Collection commemorates the bicentenary of Robert Burns’ 1787 Highland Tour. We danced Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia from this collection at our summer ceilidh.

This sums up the epitome of Scots’ character and his poetry and songs strike the heart-strings of all Scots – hence his abiding popularity. Indeed the Scottish Parliament was opened in 1999 with Sheena Wellington’s wonderful rendition of Burns’ poem/song – A Man’s a Man For A’ That.

Burns saw that many Scottish cultural traditions, historical records and literature, and tunes were being lost and he set out to collect these and keep them alive. His many poems were often set to existing older tunes for either singing or dancing. He himself was fond of dancing.

The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society catalogue features many ‘Burns’ dances – too many to mention them all, but there are some done regularly at Johnsonville such as Corn Rigs and The White Cockade, and we did Ha ha the Wooin’ o’ It at our Summer Ceilidh.

Other well-known ones include – Burns Hornpipe, The Star o’ Rabbie Burns, Salute to Rabbie Burns, Dainty Davie, Green Grow the Rashes, Birks of Abergeldie, Deuks Dang Ower My Daddie, Ca’ the Yowes, Kenmuir’s On ‘n Awa’, My Love She’s but a Lassie Yet. There are also lots of Burns tunes commonly found in sets for other dances – again the list is too long to detail.

Rabbie was a contemporary of Niel Gow – a well respected tune composer (you’ll know many of these too!) and they met up a few times. The lead tune for The Barmkin was composed by the two men together while having a drink at the Inver Inn in 1787 (tune title – Landlady of Inver Inn).

So, what happens at a Burns Supper? There is a celebration of his poetry and songs with many toasts. The haggis was a symbol of working class fare, nourishing poorer people and at the same time using up all parts of animal efficiently (much as sausages do). The haggis is brought into the room on a silver salver with great ceremony and a piper leading the procession.

The Address to the Haggis can be simply translated into sections:

1st and 2nd verses compliment the haggis on its fulsome appearance (chieftain of the pudding race), fat face and buttocks like distant hills, also enticing amber bead droplets exuding through the pores.

3rd and 4th verses describe the knife cutting into the haggis (gushing entrails bright) and the glorious sight and smell. People rush forward with their spoons to partake until their bellies are fit to burst and the head of table says a thankyou grace.

Aileen plunging the knife into the haggis while Graeme who piped in the haggis stands alongside. Photo: Désirée Patterson

5th and 6th verses poke fun at those who dabble in continental faddy food (ragout, olio, fricassee) which would make a sow sick and good folk vomit. Such poor devils are weak with thin legs, small fist and not fit enough to run across a field or flood.

7th and 8th verses compare a haggis fed man – his tread makes the Earth tremble and any blade in his hand would whistle while cutting off legs, arms and heads like the top of a thistle. To finish, it beseeches those choosing food for Scots to avoid watery stuff in wee bowls but give them haggis to earn their gratitude.

Haggis is always served with Neeps (Swede turnip) and mashed Tatties….and whisky. It is usually preceded by The Selkirk Grace by Rabbie Burns.

Some hae meat and canna eat, — And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.

In a nutshell, Rabbie brought us many well-loved stirring poems and songs, ranging from beautiful to satirical. He created valuable collections of tunes, history and culture of his times.

His humble beginnings were working with his parents on the farm in Ayrshire in the Borders. It was a hard life punctuated with landlord troubles, colouring his attitude to figures of authority abusing their power. His ‘artistic temperament’ made him very popular, including siring 14 children by four different mothers.

After using up all his money, he later took a job as an exciseman (oh, the irony) and settled down with his wife Jean Armour. He died of heart failure.

We remember him often by singing Auld Lang Syne at the end of every Scottish Event – his most enduring poem about friendship.

Other often quoted lines include:

O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. (O would some power the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us.)

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy.

Aileen Logie
7 February 2021

2014 Wellington Region 1920s Ball

Memories of an elegant evening

Going back in time to the Roaring Twenties, groups of elegant dancers entered a beautifully decorated ballroom ready for an evening of dance and friendship: flappers in dresses decorated with beadwork, sequins or embroidery, feathers in their hair and long swirling strings of pearls; men in striped jackets, white trousers and boater hats or resplendent in black Prince Charlie jackets and kilts.

Loralee Hyde and Rod and Kristin Downey arrive at the 1920s Ball

Wellington Region President at the time, Philippa Pointon, says the committee decided to have a 1920s ball to celebrate the decade in which the RSCDS was formed.

Thanks so much to the committee of Melva Waite, Kath Ledingham, Eileen South and Philippa, who was also MC for the evening, for organising this grand affair on 5 July 2014.

The ‘1920s’ committee: Melva Waite, Kath Ledingham, Eileen South and Philippa Pointon

As dancers arrived, they were offered punch by three smartly dressed bartenders; Kevin Lethbridge, Pat Waite and Peter Warren.

Ready to serve the punch: Kevin Lethbridge, Pat Waite and Peter Warren

Everyone had the opportunity to pose in their finery in a gold photo booth, made especially for the purpose by John Gregory. Thanks to John for pulling together all the fantastic decorations for the evening, with the photo booth continuing to feature at formal occasions including the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016.

Johnsonville ‘1920s’ dancers: Aline and John Homes, Rod and Kristin Downey with Sono Barnes in front, Malcolm Leitch, Désirée Patterson and Pat Reesby

Lively music from Aileen Logie, John Smith, Peter Elmes and Terry Bradshaw (with some sets containing 1920s tunes cleverly arranged by Peter), got toes tapping and dancers on to the floor throughout the evening.

MC Philippa Pointon with Aileen Logie, John Smith, Peter Elmes and Terry Bradshaw

Old favourites on the programme included The Sailor, Cadgers in Canongate and Sugar Candie. Dances published by the RSCDS in the 1920s were represented by Flowers of Edinburgh (Book 1, 1924) and Blue Bonnets (Book 3, 1926).

Johnsonville dancers: Kristin & Rod Downey, John Homes and Loralee Hyde

“A great night was had by all”, Philippa says. “I don’t think the Charleston had ever been played on an accordion before!”

Check out these photos for more memories of a fabulous evening of fun and friendship with elegant costumes abounding and memorable dancing and music

Watch Pat Reesby’s video of Village Reel below

Loralee Hyde
20 January 2021

Join us at dancing in 2021

Scottish Country Dancing is a fun way to get fit and make new friends – all with toe-tapping Celtic music!

We welcome you to our Beginner’s Classes on 1, 8, 15 & 22 February, 7.30pm-9.30pm on Monday nights at Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.

Our classes suit all ages from teenagers and upwards.

First Class: Monday, 1 February

Doors open at 7.15pm. Come a little early the first night to register and be ready to dance at 7.30pm.

Our tutor Rod Downey will introduce the steps over the four weeks and you’ll be up and dancing during the first evening.

  • This is social dancing and we all dance together and help each other.
  • No partner is needed – come by yourself or with a friend
  • Wear soft shoes and light comfortable clothing
  • Just $5 for each class, or $15 for all four! Pay by cash at the door.

FREE for 2020 Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club members


To find out more, contact Robert on 021 163 9649 or email him or Rod/Kristin on 04 478 4948 or email them


Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.

Isabelle and Maggie: New dancers in 2020

Isabelle and Maggie with Kristin Downey, President of Johnsonville Club

Two new dancers have kindly shared their experiences of being a new dancer at Johnsonville Club in 2020.

Find out more from Isabelle and Maggie about their first year of dancing


Download the Johnsonville Beginners Poster 2021 below


Click here for more about our club and Scottish Country Dancing

Our new dancers of 2020

More than twenty new dancers came along to Johnsonville’s beginners’ classes early in 2020 to try out Scottish Country dancing. Around half of those decided it was not for them, but the other half wanted to know more.

Club nights had only been up and running for three weeks when Covid got in the way, dancing was suspended, and many people’s lives changed. Despite this, four of our new dancers found the joy of the dance irresistible, and have become part of our dancing community.

Two of those dancers have kindly shared their experiences of being a new dancer at Johnsonville Club in 2020: Maggie Boag and Isabelle Joseph. Find out more below.

Isabelle and Maggie with Kristin Downey, President of Johnsonville Club

Maggie Boag: An incredible way to exercise the body…and brain

Maggie has a bit of a head start on many of us, having done easy Scottish Country dances as a child at school in Paisley, not far from Glasgow. She also lived in the Highlands, in the wee village of Foyers (famous for its ‘smoky’ waterfall) south of Inverness, on the shores of Loch Ness.

Robert Burns and Lord Kelvin, amongst others, visited Foyers, Burns wrote a poem about it, and there is a Scottish Country dance named The Falls of Foyers. Maggie’s Scottish background surely set her up to find the joy in Scottish Country dancing.

But outside of school, she only ever danced at Christmas dances, weddings and ceilidhs until a Kiwi friend brought her along to beginners’ classes in Johnsonville. As Maggie says: ‘It seems I had to come to New Zealand to learn RSCDS dances … all far more complicated than any I had done before.’

Maggie with her daughter Fiona in Johnsonville

If Covid-19 had not come along, Maggie’s allowed 6-month visit to family in New Zealand would have finished, and she would have headed back to Scotland in April. Happily for us and for Maggie, her visit was extended, and she danced with us all year. Long may it last.

Maggie says:

Since I recently became a widow, I found it difficult to meet new people and enjoy company. A good friend suggested that I might like to join her at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club on a Monday night.

I was very nervous and, right up till the last minute, I almost pulled out. I am so glad that I didn’t.

From the moment I arrived, all of the members gave me a warm welcome. They showed an interest in me, encouraged me, and reassured me that I would soon learn the steps of the many dances.

They pointed out that, in the past, they too had been beginners, and it didn’t matter if you made a mistake, or got your right mixed up with your left, the patterns would soon fall into place.

Experienced dancers always took me and the other new dancers as partners for each dance. They would gently and subtly point out the correct way to go and what was coming next.

Of course that didn’t always work, and there were sometimes hilarious consequences. But these kind people never laugh at you, instead they laugh with you!

Every evening there is much laughter and communication. This is so very good for your spirit.

Our excellent tutor, Rod, is a very patient man. He breaks down each dance, explains each part of it, and demonstrates how it should be done. (He is so light on his feet!)

Before each class, he lets us know by email what new dances will be taught that week and includes videos of those dances. This is tremendously helpful.

Rod has a wealth of knowledge of all the dances and the music that  accompanies them. We all learn so much from him and are inspired by his enthusiasm.

I have also found that Scottish Country Dancing is an incredible way to exercise … not only the body, but also the brain. Since taking up dancing, I find the many hills of Wellington far less challenging.

After this first year of dancing, I am still very much a beginner compared to most of my new friends. With their kindness, friendship, and encouragement, I am keen to carry on and become more competent.

I still make many mistakes, and am often more like a baby elephant than a nimble elf, but when I get the moves in a dance right, and I glide across the floor with an excellent partner, I experience such a feeling of accomplishment and such a feeling of joy.

It really has astounded me that Scottish Country Dancing could make me feel so good. I really am so grateful to all at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club.

Newer dancers from Johnsonville at the 2020 Wellington New Dancers Celebration – Elizabeth Judge, Maura Beattie, Bruce and Fiona Jones and Maggie

I am looking forward to future years of good company, a fun way to exercise both my mind and body, and to learn more of these amazing dances.

I would dearly love to stay in New Zealand permanently, not only to be near my daughter, but because I have found the people, the culture and the land of this beautiful country to be wonderful. Hopefully this might happen in the not too distant future.

Isabelle Joseph: Enjoying dancing allows me to have fun

Isabelle just loves to dance. From the moment she saw Johnsonville Club’s beginners’ ad for dance classes close by in Johnsonville, she was hooked.

Isabelle had done some traditional Malay dance at school in Malaysia, and danced to music and song at parties. She’d seen and liked the Irish dancing in Riverdance, but not seen Scottish country dancing before. That didn’t matter though, Isabelle just wanted to dance.

As she says: ‘I’m so glad that I took some time to read the Independent Herald in January, in which I came across the Johnsonville Scottish Country dance club. I “braved” myself to come in for the first night of dancing and have loved every session I attended.’

Since then Isabelle has earned renown for the delicious Malaysian curry puffs she prepares for Tartan nights and volunteered to join this year’s supper team. She also likes the sound of bag-pipes which she finds to be an amazing musical instrument!

We are lucky she was brave enough to join us on the dance floor, and are so pleased she’s staying on to dance with us. A friend has even made Isabelle a beautiful tartan sash to wear while dancing.

Isabelle says:

I came to New Zealand in December 2015. I moved here from Malaysia to be with my husband.

Working life in Malaysia was hectic with long hours so when I came to . it took some adjustment to the free time I had, to a point I became bored just sitting around the house and not doing much.

So I joined both a Tamil society here in Wellington and then joined the Malaysian society in 2017 where I am currently secretary. Apart from that, I volunteered as a teacher aid with MCLaSS, and with Mary Potter Hospice store in Porirua.

When my husband started his own financial business about three years ago, I stopped my volunteering and started working with him due to the banking background I have. However I still do volunteering, every Tuesday fortnight at the Home of Compassion, Island Bay.

As for dancing, back in my school days I’ve done traditional Malay dance, and in October 2017, myself with three other friends did a dance for the NZ Malaysian Society Deepavali event. Apart from that, it’s just free dance to any kind of dance music/song in parties.

I got to know about the Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club through the Independent Herald, January 2020 publication. I read the article in the newspaper (though it was small, it caught my attention). I decided to email the club to express my interest and get more information. I promptly received a reply, advising me on the day when the club resumes dancing.

Monday 3 February, I got ready and drove down to the Johnsonville Bowling Club. Though I was nervous I went with an open mind to be greeted by smiles and hellos. That put me at ease.

Then the dancing started, with some simple, do-able warm-ups. The experienced dancers looked after the new dancers, partnering with them for each dance routine. It was not easy remembering the moves but eventually you get the hang of it with the help of the experienced dancers.

Since then, Monday evening is a day I look forward to, a day/time I block off on my calendar. The dance is fun and keeps the brain active as you need to remember the formations and when it is your turn to move, of course with the guidance of our dance tutor.

I can’t say I knew Scottish dance before I joined the club. I must say it was unexpected. I didn’t know there were so many routines, formations, different kind of steps for different kind of music. It was pretty challenging.

Isabelle at the far left and Maggie second from the right dancing Spring Fever at the Johnsonville Spring Fling in November 2020

But the fact that I enjoyed dancing allowed me to have fun with it. Of course the more experienced dancers did a great job looking out for new dancers like me. And Rod is an amazing tutor.

Read an article below about about Johnsonville’s new dancers in the Independent Herald

Join us at dancing in 2021!

Scottish Country Dancing is a fun way to get fit and make new friends – all with toe-tapping Celtic music!

This year, our Beginner’s Classes are on 1, 8, 15 & 22 February, 7.30pm-9.30pm on Monday nights at Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.

Find out more here

9 January 2020